erg 200WHE Logo
Living Well

Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) Newsletter

Spring 2013


Helping to create a healthier community for women and those who love them.

In This Issue
Thanks to Our Funders
WHE Welcomes Chelsea Holmes
WHE Intern Describes Experience
Fragrance-Free Day Returns
Green Cleaning
Teens on the Eco Scene
Farm to Community Conference
Safe Chemicals Act Update
Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act
Upcoming Events
Giving Corner
Quick Links

Special Thanks
Special thanks to our generous funders:
WHE Congratulates and Welcomes Chelsea Holmes!


It's perhaps the only time we will get to boast that our staff has doubled! WHE has hired  intern Chelsea Holmes as program coordinator. Under this role Chelsea will oversee the WHE student programs and public workshops. Chelsea just received her Masters Degree in Food Studies from Chatham University. Her thesis is a series of podcasts that features "Pittsburgh's Food Landscape: Past and Present," which can be found at this link. Please join us in welcoming Chelsea!


MNC Image 

Springtime is always a nice welcome in our home. However, that frequently means taking extra steps to eliminate any environmental triggers that may impact our children, two of whom have been diagnosed with asthma.


As you may know May is national Asthma and Allergy Awareness month. And once again WHE is coordinating a Fragrance-Free Campaign. We have posted information under the Fragrance-Free section of this newsletter about upcoming WHE events. We hope you will assist us and inform others about this day!


There is also another great opportunity to learn more about our air quality and health impacts. Registration is open for the "The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and Other Health Impacts of Air Pollution." In addition to asthma causes and gaps in treatment, the conference will examine newly presented research findings about other air pollution related health impacts in our region including cancer, premature birth and low birth weight, cardiopulmonary illness and premature death. Dr. Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard University, is the featured keynote speaker. This event is free to the general public and nonmedical professionals. To register click here.  


Lastly, we wanted to share information about a new initiative. WHE would like to hear from YOU! Share your story about how WHE has impacted your life. If we select your story for our website, newsletter or Facebook page, we will send you a $25 gift certificate to Whole Foods. Send your story to We're excited to read and share your stories!




Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis

Executive Director
Women for a Healthy Environment


Intern Rachel Leftwich Describes Her Experience with WHE


When I looked for an internship, my career counselor at Chatham University immediately suggested Women for a Healthy Environment, a nonprofit in Squirrel Hill. The name alone piqued my interest, as a way to combine my passion for environmental health advocacy with my deep, vested interest in issues that disproportionately affect women. During my time here, I have gotten to work with so many issues related to consumer product and food safety that affect both women and men, from Bisphenol A to flame retardants to chemical use in schools. In the beginning, I worked closely with Michelle on research, compiling data, and planning upcoming events. Then, one week that Michelle was out of town, I was given a table at the Employee Health Fair to put what I had learned into action.

             I was simply blown away at the amount of genuine interest and curiosity that the people displayed. As people approached, I began to explain the display comparing commonly used consumer and personal care products with healthy alternatives, and the learning began. People were so excited to learn about why certain products were harmful, as well as alternative, cost effective substitutes that were both safer and healthier. I had so many interesting conversations at this event and another tabling event the following week at Market Square for Equal Pay Day. It really made me realize the importance of what we do, that people are actively seeking out the knowledge to help make better choices for themselves and their families.

             This realization has been so important to me looking forward. As a senior in college, I have been in a very academic setting, studying and working hard to finish my environmental science degree. I wonder, as I think we all do, what can I go do with my degree? Being able to venture out and apply my knowledge and interact with people in the real world has been so encouraging. The issues that I am passionate about, related to environmental health and women's issues, can really make a difference to people in their everyday lives. Highlighting the health and safety of people and their families is a vital way of helping people connect to and care about pressing  environmental  issues. Soon, knowledge in hand, citizens will demand legislation that will protect them from the chemical onslaught to which we are all subjected, whether we know it or not. I am so pleased to have been a part of the amazing work that Michelle, and Women for a Healthy Environment as a whole, has been accomplishing in our region this year.  


Fragrance-Free Day

It's back! WHE is hosting a Fragrance-Free day in Market Square on Tuesday, May 21st from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm. Stop by our tent to receive a fragrance-free gift item and toolkit. You'll also enjoy music by singer and songwriter Joy Ike.


The next day, Wednesday, May 22nd, we will host a brown bag "Lunch and Learn." This free event will address Fragrance-Free Workplace Policies. Join us from noon-1:00 pm at the Heinz 57 Center, 339 Sixth Avenue, Suite 750 (seventh floor). The building is located between Rite Aid and the Duquesne Club. To register for the Lunch and Learn, click here.



Click here to share our flyer with family, friends, and colleagues!


Special thanks to our sponsors: the Highmark Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and the Pipitone Group for making these events possible!


Green Cleaning

With spring officially here, one thing comes to mind for us at WHE - spring cleaning - and how we can ensure safety of products. Often new products are marketed that are best to clean the bathroom, the kitchen, the laundry room, the bedroom, and the list goes on. This leaves us with many products under the kitchen sink. And too often stories are shared with us about people who have experienced headaches, asthma attacks or rashes and other skin sensitivities when using cleaning products that contain harmful ingredients. The problem is cleaning product manufacturers are not required to fully disclose of the ingredients in the products. The result? Once again, we the consumers have to play detective. When we give community presentations, our staff often brings a sampling of items found in the home. One of the favorite products to discuss is the Clorox Cleanup with Bleach. This ingredient contains 1.84% of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) the other 98.16% of the ingredients are a complete mystery!


If you missed our last email, we've attached the Do-It-Yourself green cleaning guide that contains simple ingredients you can find at any local store. These are items our grandparents used and are still very effective today. Click here to download a copy of the guide! And don't forget to dust. Not a particularly fun task, but an important one. Many toxins accumulate in the dust. Stay tuned...WHE is working with a cleaning company to offer you a unique microfiber cleaning kit!


Teens on the Eco Scene

WHE hosted the launch party in February with great success. Students had the opportunity to make their own deodorant, lip balm, cologne and perfume, recycle old electronics and taste test the diffference between organic and conventional produce. We will be offering more opportunities for students to learn about food and consumer product safety over the next year. One of the programs that we have received many requests for recently is the "Chemistry in Cosmetics" class, which has been offered since 2010.  


If your community group or school would like to have WHE present to students, contact us at 412-420-2290 or



Farm to Community Conference


On March 5th over 100 people attended WHE's inaugural Farm to Community Conference. Attendees included representatives from social service, health care and nonprofit organizations; school districts; farms as well as community members. Our three keynote speakers Judy Dodd, Melony Samuels and Rodney Taylor shared inspiring and insightful stories that addressed integrating healthy foods into communities nationwide. The panel discussions were engaging and demonstrated through case studies how communities can implement sustainable food systems that promote and enhance the health of a region. As one participant noted, "I enjoyed the networking and do hope that the success of the conference will bring awareness to the healthier choices to communities."


To view the workshop presentations, click here.


Save the Date - Next year's conference is scheduled for May 2nd!

From left to right: Michele Naccarati-Chapkis, WHE; Rodney Taylor, Riverside United School District; Dr. Melony Samuels, Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger; Judy Dodd, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Christina Wilds, Highmark Foundation; Yvonne Cook, Highmark Foundation; Chelsea Holmes, WHE 



Safe Chemicals Act Update

Led by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), 29 senators introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 on April 10th of this year. Similar to a bill cleared by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the 112th Congress, the Safe Chemicals Act would go a long way toward protecting Americans from chemicals before they are linked to reproductive and developmental disorders, cancers and other illnesses that are costly to treat and often preventable. Specifically, it would:

  • Require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and restrict the "worst of the worst" chemicals.
  • Require basic health and safety information for chemicals as a condition for entering or remaining on the market.
  • Upgrade scientific methods for assessing chemical safety.
  • Arm the EPA with the authority it needs to restrict chemicals that pose health and environmental concerns. 

We will be updating you in the upcoming weeks regarding plans to host several community events this summer to raise awareness about the need for chemical reform!


In cooperation with the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, Women for a Healthy Environment joined the Mind the Store campaign last month. The campaign is asking the nation's top 10 retailers including Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Home Depot, Lowe's and Costco to move away from the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals in order to lift the consumer burden of trying to determine which products may contain harmful chemicals. We encourage you to take action and "Mind the Store" with us! To read our full press release, click here.  



Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act Introduced!


On March 21, 2013 Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013  (H.R. 1385). The Act is designed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients and that ingredients are fully disclosed.


Under the current law, the FDA can't require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments, and can't even require product recalls. In a recent example, the FDA could not issue a mandatory recall of Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products even after they were found to contain formaldehyde!


Provisions of the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 include:

  • Phase-out of ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm;
  • Creation of a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations;
  • Elimination of labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure on product labels and company websites, including salon products and the constituent ingredients of fragrance;
  • Worker access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products;
  • Required data-sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing; and
  • Adequate funding to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry.

The Act gives consumers, parents and environmental health advocates a real chance at national legislation that would eliminate harmful chemicals from the products women, men and children put on their bodies every day. Click on this link to ask your Representative to co-sponsor this critical Act!



 Upcoming Events


PASA is hosting a Bike Fresh, Bike Local event on June 2, 2013 starting at the North Park Ice Rink on Pearce Mill Rd. Take a ride to explore the beautiful landscapes and farmland of Allegheny County and see where your food comes from! PASA's Bike Fresh Bike Local-Allegheny County ride offers 25, 50 and 75 mile route options, making this ride perfect for those who haven't been on their bike in awhile to cyclists looking for a challenge. For more information, click here.


Save the Date! GASP and Athletes United are very excited to announce the Clean Air Dash and Festival brought to Pittsburgh with the support of the Heinz Endowments' Breathe Project!  This 5k race event will be held on October 19th, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park, along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. 




Giving Corner


Help us to offer you great programming
and advocate for change!
WHE has not only advocated on behalf of issues related to our health and the environment -- pushing for safer reforms on chemical policy and other important topics in our region -- WHE has also brought our incredibly valuable events and workshops that have educated our communities, putting them on the pathway to healthier living.  Through online communication, we hope the articles and reports we share with each of you have been valuable to understanding the latest scientific findings between our health and the environment.

Our ability to continue to bring our families and friends across western Pennsylvania events and workshops and advocate for policy change that protects our health depends on our ability to fund these activities. 

Today, your support is more important than ever. You can help us in our efforts to create a happier, healthier, better tomorrow for yourself, your family, and the community.
Women for a Healthy Environment
  • Empowering women with reliable scientific information
  • Advocating for environmental policy solutions 
  • Educating the community about environmental health risks

Special thanks to primary grantor The Heinz Endowments and host organization The Children's Institute.


  Women for a Healthy Environment    ::    1405 Shady Avenue   ::   Pittsburgh, PA 15217

phone: 412.420.2290    ::    fax: 412.420.4450      ::     email:


 Visit us on the web: 


Follow us on TwitterFind us on Facebook